After Facebook breaks its silence on Cambridge Analytica data breach its response still falls short and is inadequate at best

Five days after what was revealed to a be a major data breach on social networking giant Facebook, its CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally broke his silence on the topic and appeared in a number of interviews.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The Facebook CEO also published a long status message on his Facebook wall addressing the issue and acknowledging that Facebook had made a mistake. But his response indeed seemed a bit too short and a case of too little too late, especially when the damage done applies to its users at a such a personal level.

While the investigations are still on, and Zuckerberg as admitted to the mess, let's take a look at what our team at tech2 has to say in response to Zuckerberg's letter.

Ankit Vengurlekar: 

Dear Mark,

It is good of you to finally address a situation that is a global headline and has wiped off tens of billions of dollars from Facebook's share value. While this may help assuage stakeholders, this response is inexplicably inadequate for your most important stakeholders — Facebook's users, all 2.2 billion of them.

I am frankly surprised at how late this response has been and how little it addresses. There is no apology, even though there is an admittance of oversight.

I cannot believe when Mark says that they took the word from Cambridge Analytica (CA) and some certification to prove that all the wrongly acquired data was deleted. As Channel 4's expose shows, this seems like a network of highly sophisticated spies and folks who know how to game the system. And you're being naive in believing them and asking us, the users to believe you that our data is safe.

CA and their misuse of data blew up because of stellar journalistic work by The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4. Not because you came out in the open 3 years ago and admitted to having a data breach. You haven't mentioned the words even once in your response. Why should we believe that any of the hundreds of thousands of apps that have had access to Facebook's user data haven't done what CA did? Are you suggesting you're going to inspect the servers and data backups of thousands of these app developers? How will you access the data dumps exchanging hands in the deep web?

Facebook is now in damage control mode.

Facebook is now in damage control mode.

User trust has completely taken a beating and frankly, anybody who uses Facebook now is nothing short of a daredevil. As the largest contributor to your global expansion and growth, I expect that Facebook India should address their user base separately and help them with steps officially to keep their data secure if they still choose to continue using Facebook.

I am extremely disappointed in Mark's response and hope that independent investigations show the real extent of user data breach.

Nimish Sawant:

Mark Zuckerberg finally put out an official statement and followed it up with an interview with CNN and many other media organisations in the US, where the issue was discussed at length. Yes, I felt that the response was late considering the note on which Zuckerberg started 2018 — "My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues. We won't prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools," he had said on 4 Jan 2018. And yet, we learn that Facebook was aware of the Cambridge Analytica issue in 2015 and took their assurance that they don't have any Facebook data at face value.

There are still many questions that remain unanswered. How can Facebook ensure that the user data that app developers had access to, is not available on the dark web for sale? What's the guarantee that there are no developers such as Kogan, who sold Facebook data to third parties?

A 3D-printed Facebook dislike button is seen in front the Facebook logo. Reuters

A 3D-printed Facebook dislike button is seen in front the Facebook logo. Reuters

Zuckerberg has announced measures which are logical but seem like they should've taken these steps when they were first intimated of the issue. Doing an audit of Cambridge Analytica and Alexander Kogan now seems pointless and I wonder if that is even possible given the time that has already passed. That dataset has already been abused.

Also, the measures Zuckerberg has announced also challenges a lot of its business models, so I wonder how investors will respond to these. With data regulations such as UK's data protection law and EU's GDPR on their way, I wonder how Facebook will be able to run roughshod over user data, without paying heavy penalties.

Closer home, with general assembly elections coming up next year, political parties have already started bickering about Cambridge Analytica and possibility of data abuse. It's high time that Facebook India team also addresses some of these questions that will be India specific. India is, after all, the largest user base of Facebook.

Sheldon Pinto: 

The Cambridge Analytica-Facebook fiasco indeed sounds like the first of many to come and is more of an eye-opener to the general public than to privacy seekers and geeks who have been eyeing the vast amounts of user data being generated on such platforms.

Christopher Wylie. Reuters

Christopher Wylie. Reuters

Mark Zuckerberg's apology falls short of the mistakes committed by the social network in terms of dealing with user data and the Channel 4 sting with co-founder Christopher Wylie's inputs shows good enough evidence that Facebook was and (still could be) least bothered about securing user data. What happened was unethical for a brand this big (and this personal) and it makes a lot of sense for everyone to #deletefacebook because trust once lost, is lost forever. When a user opens their Facebook page now he/she will know how much of an influence they are to the whole system of ads and why they are being flooded with them. More importantly, they will now start to reason out why they see what they see on their news feeds.

Facebook can be as transparent as they want to now. But the damage is done and Zuckerberg's apology is a clear case of too little too late as there's nothing that can be done to scavenge or improve what's left of the brand's image in the face of both users and investors.

Lastly, it's easy to say that with Facebook under the scanner, WhatsApp and Instagram will be the next big targets of government scrutiny. While the bigger question still remains as to who else had access to the same data, Facebook will now have its fair share of questions to answer not just from governments and investors but it's users as well.

Rehan Hooda:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for finally responding to one of the most critical discussions about the data privacy and protection of the private data of Facebook users in a long time. Earlier the discussions were present but only limited to a small part of the internet. Thanks to Cambridge Analytica, this topic has has now become mainstream, taking the spotlight of conversations to average Facebook users who would normally not be interested in discussing topics such as privacy or data protection. There may be pockets of users that are still cut off from news and current discussions, but still better late than never.

However, after reading the apology in a number of interviews, the response does not feel anything more than a template response to most of the questions. Even the apology, if I may consider it one, is also just discussion of what we already know, a light 'admission' of mistakes that we suspected for long. The interviews then go into discussions about the mismatch of what you consider important for users and what users really want to happen on the platform. When it comes to taking any proper steps about ensuring that this is not repeated, you divert us by telling us that all the necessary steps were taken back in 2014. The concrete steps about limiting the data that developers can access is just too little, too late. You have not even mentioned any reason why Facebook took so long to react.

What is astonishing is the part where you added that you now understood that users valued privacy more than their data being shared "for a better experience" after almost 15 years of the service being active. It is quite difficult to believe that and to fathom how much data, the company, by its design shared with developers because of an 'idealistic' view of the world. And lastly, instead of giving us excuses and counting the problems, Facebook should focus on coming up with solutions.This can include pushing for more funding in improving Artificial Intelligence or any assistive tools to help the company.The funding and research should not be limited to that and even extend to ideas and plans on how to overhaul the internal structure of Facebook to make user data more private and secure, rather than just talking about it. This is just the beginning and it's imperative that the company takes it through without quoting issues that will understandably come in the way.


Updated Date: Mar 22, 2018 21:23 PM